Long ago, I personally stopped using the nasty “c” word, a label for a certain part of female anatomy. Going as far back as my adolescence, the context of usage of it in American culture left me especially turned off to the term. I respect women’s personal choice around reclaiming the word if they wish. Author Eve Ensler made an eloquent case for doing just that in her wonderful book THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. But, as a (biologically assigned and mostly identifying as) male ally of women and feminism, I have no use for it. For me, this is parallel to how white people really need not have any use for the “n” word, even though some Black people rightfully choose to say that descriptor amongst themselves.
In parallel to my feelings around the “c” and “n” words, as a gay man I have no interest in reclaiming the words “fag” or “faggot,” though many of my queer brethren and sistren do and say it freely amongst themselves. These terms are especially unpleasant in sound (as is the “c” word) in addition to being associated with my years of hearing them said directly to me with such a meanness, particularly in middle school and high school. I am happy to leave them behind out of my personal lexicon. People who know me respect this and do not use these epithets around me, even in jest, except, on occasion, in quotes to make a point or to quote someone else (again, to make some point, such as how difficult or ignorant the quoted person is). I appreciate their respect of me and my wishes.
I understand how some may judge me as being “overly sensitive” for having such strong boundaries around a small handful of words. My response to this is that I finally reached a shameless acceptance of the reality that I am indeed very sensitive, including around the above-discussed terms. I feel no need or wish to desensitize myself to them. My sensitivity is a part of who I naturally am and has led me to some wonderful insights and experiences in life, not the least being the profession I chose for myself (psychotherapist). I think many people could benefit from developing more sensitivity, which is another way of saying that empathy and compassion are important for everyone to cultivate in themselves and for others.
I was glad to see Joaquin Phoenix win an Oscar for JOKER and Renee Zellweger win one for JUDY. Both were well-deserved for the incredible transformation they each made in their leading roles. However, I was disappointed that Tom Hanks did not win Best Supporting Actor for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. He was powerfully, touchingly transformed as Mr. Rogers. Brad Pitt, who competently played a comparatively far less dynamic character in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, garnered a clearly undeserved win next to Hanks. The Academy has long been so uneven and peculiar in its awarding choices.
I’m one of those people who when I need space to calm down and I clearly state this out loud in plain English, I need it promptly. It is no longer a request, but a basic expectation from my overwhelmed brain for the other party to back off and leave me alone. I can then return to the difficult discussion later, when I’m level-headed. That “later” may be in a short while or a long while, depending on the particular situation, topics(s) of concern, the other party’s own emotional state, etc. Once in a while, I have found this boundary I set to be difficult for some people to respect. Space, often not only the final, but very necessary, here-and-now frontier.
(I do so appreciate the bulk of people kindly allowing me space when I need it. And I am ever so glad to reciprocate this need for others.)
Road rage in Massachusetts is out of control, as I imagine it is in a lot of other states throughout the U.S. Earlier, I was driving down a main thoroughfare when a burly white guy from off a side street pushed his car into oncoming traffic, in front of me, to my left. I shook my head at him as I drove on by. Shortly, he sped up from behind, turned into a store parking lot (to my right) and barreled along there while making it a point to flip me the bird– instead of watch where he was going.
Toxic masculinity is a real thing, be it on the road or anywhere else. This problematic phenomenon admittedly irritates me when I’m faced with it head on. It’s all such an obnoxious exhibition of childish entitlement, lack of empathy, and poor sense of boundaries. Very un-evolved. Breathe and enter a peaceful place, I try to remind myself, time and again. This behavior from some men is troublesome and, ultimately, rather sad. Toxic masculine men deeply challenge my human compassion capacity. Therein lays the reason why they continue to be teachers of sorts for me. Live and learn, then wake up another day to keep living and learning, while also taking no shit.
I find all these images/memes on social media of people flipping the bird at the camera both sad, tiresome, and aggravating. Many people have gone way too far with blindly advocating defiance for the sake of defiance, in a mindless knee jerk way, gesturing “f— you” to the world simply because they can, and glamorizing it as somehow great to do (all the while helping to maintain divisiveness, exactly what the world needs far less of right now). And this in reaction to so much ugliness and pain going around with our fellow human beings and the rest of life on earth. It’s like the ultimate giving in to cynicism and selfishness: “Screw everyone else, I’m just going to look out for me.” And just beneath the surface of this: “I give up.” This is just what Trump/Drumpf and his followers are doing. Others are getting sucked into being like them with this kind of “f— you” mentality. Very sad, and frustrating, this pointless, toxic, non-introspecting negativity.
Now, I’m very much all for not being a blind follower, but there are so many more colorful, positive, gutsy ways to not follow rather than via a tired old, unoriginal, alienating, toxic “f— you” gesture. Such bubble gum rebellion. Paradoxically, that’s just another flip-side of following, re: Drumpf and his supporters with their bird flipping to so much of the world and what they don’t understand, fear, or already feel alienated from through experiencing disenfranchisement, etc. They say “f— you” one way or another to so much, emotionally shitting on the rest of us. This is something easy for any of us to fall into doing. I myself have to be mindful and step away from the temptation to do it too. But, it’s part of me being an adult with a functioning brain to first breathe and think before impulsively, unoriginally acting out, just because I can.
Let’s please not fan the flames with more of this cynical pushing away. Not reposting memes of people flipping the bird is one of countless ways to consider avoiding such feeding into this mindlessly looping, over-negativity vortex. We’re all stronger, more compassionate, and ultimately better than that– not to mention able to be more imaginative and creative, if we but just stop a moment or two and engage our brains and hearts more. Food for thought.